France’s bishops meeting in Lourdes have decided to “recognise the institutional responsibility of the Church” in the abuse thousands of victims were subjected to and the “systemic dimension” of these crimes, the head of the French episcopal conference announced on Friday.
“These criminal acts against children, whose extent was exposed by the recent Sauvé report, were made possible by a general context, functioning, mentalities and practices within the church,” said Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the Bishops’ Conference of France (CEF). “This responsibility comes with a duty of justice and reparation.”
The bishops had already announced in March that the Church wished to assume its responsibility by “apologising for these crimes and shortcomings.”
Based on the Sauvé report, it is now saying so “more strongly, clearly and categorically,” de Moulins-Beaufort said, without giving details of the financial implications of this recognition by the church of its responsibility.
The bishops’ conference, which began Tuesday, continues until Monday and “it’s on this common basis that we are going to work” on examining the report’s other recommendations, he explained.
According to CEF spokesperson Hughes Woillemont, the bishops submitted the “responsibility commitment” to a vote. This acknowledgement was one of the main recommendations of an independent commission headed by Jean-Marc Sauvé investigating child sexual abuse in France.
The Commission proposed to the Church to recognise its civil and social responsibility “independent of any personal fault of its officials.”
About 216,000 people above the age of 18 years were subjected, as minors, to sexual violence or attacks by priests, deacons, monks or nuns since 1950, the Commission’s report states. It estimates the number of perpetrators involved over the 70-year period at about 3,000.
The Sauvé Commission advocates basing the amount of compensation due to each individual on the “harm done” to them. It has ruled out calling for donations from churchgoers to finance the payouts and plans to finance them “from the assets of the aggressor and of the Church of France.”